Book Review no.1 The Book of English Magic

The Book of English Magic by Philip Carr-Gomm & Richard Heygate is one of my favourite books of 2020. In case you don’t know, Philip Carr-Gomm was the head of the Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids (OBOD) and has written many books on Druidry and its relationships to other disciplines.

The Book of English Magic is a hefty work- including notes it is 540 pages long. Because of its large size, it is incredibly in depth and well researched. The book begins with a preface, which reads

The Book of English Magic explores the curious and little-known fact that, of all the countries in the world, England has the richest history of magical lore and practice. English authors such as J R R Tolkien, Terry Pratchett, Susanna Clarke, Philip Pullman and J K Rowling dominate the world of magic in fiction, but while children accept the magical world without reservation, most adults are not only sceptical of its place in modern society but are ignorant of the part magic and magicians have played in English history.

(Carr-Gomm & Heygate, pix)

This speaks to me because in Britain, it is usually Scotland, Wales and particularly Ireland that are renowned as having the richest and most magical history. It is of comfort to this Englishwoman to have someone saying that in fact, England itself has a rich tradition of magic that is worth remembering, exploring and continuing.  Adding to this, there is a Magical map of England highlighting all of the places of magical interest in the country. I think that this is a lovely touch, and you could actually use it to plan a country wide magical road trip. The map includes Pendragon Castle, Mother Shipton’s Cave, Pendle Hill, the White horse of Uffington and of course, Stonehenge.  They also include some possibly lesser known sites, which would be fascinating to explore.  To top this off, the book then includes a magical map of London, which of course features Treadwell’s bookshop, where Carr-Gomm & Heygate begin their introduction, saying

Our story begins in a bookshop. Treadwell’s in London’s Covent Garden is everything a bookshop should be- warm, inviting, comfortable- and yet most people hurry past it, because it specialises in a subject they don’t believe in: magic.

(p3)

They then talk a bit on the history of magic and the importance of occult book stores such as Treadwell’s, not just to the occultist, but to everyone, saying  ‘Who should read this book, you may ask? The answer is simple: anyone with an open mind who seeks adventure…’ (p7)

Carr-Gomm & Heygate include a lot of references to fiction in their book. They particularly focus on JRR Tolkien, as he borrowed a lot from the Anglo-Saxons to inform his Middle-earth. He also quotes Suzanna Clarke’s (2006) The Ladies of Grace Adieu in his introduction, where she says ‘Magic, madam, is like wine and, if you are not used to it, it will make you drunk.’ (p7)

The introduction is followed by twelve chapters. We shall use the first chapter, Ancient Roots and Magic Wands, as our case study, as each chapter follows a similar formula.

Ancient Roots and Magic Wands

This chapter begins with the statement ‘there are now more practising wizards in England than at any other time in her history.’ (p11) showing that we are currently living in England’s Golden Age of Magic. I think this is such an important message, as we often find ourselves daydreaming of a (usually pseudo-medieval) magical time of dragons, wizards and wise women living in the forest. Yet actually, if we are looking for a thriving magical landscape we need look no further than the here and now.

Each chapter has a Read About this Period in Fiction section which I particularly like, as it indicates a lack of purist ideals in the part of the author. Often fiction is snubbed for not being about ‘real magic’ and although Carr-Gomm & Heygate are particular about what books they recommend, the fact that they recommend fiction definitely makes them an endearing authors, and I trust their judgement wholly.

They also refrain from sugar-coating, warning the reader to ‘distinguish between the charlatan and the genius, that sometimes exist within the same person.’ (p11) And this down to earth standpoint makes them reliable and neutral authorities on the subject of magic.

They include a very detailed section on caves on page 12, which is dense with information and historical research, particularly on ‘Cresswell Craggs, [from] 12,000 years ago [which] shows that by then [caves] were being decorated, and used for magical ceremonies.’ (p12) They then go into further detail about caves in France and Spain to put their findings into historical context. When talking about Silbury Hill and the White Horse of Uffington, they go into so much detail that you know that they have been there. In fact, you get this sense with every location described within the book- I have difficulty believing that they haven’t visited every place that they mention.   

Each chapter also includes mini biographies of important people in the history of the subject. In this chapter, he includes John Aubrey, William Stukeley, Alfred Watkins and John Mitchell.

They then include a section called How to Hunt for Ley Lines. This book is full of tips and tricks, indicative of someone who knows. When referring to ley hunting, they recommend winter, as ‘In the winter the undergrowth will have died back, so that you are more likely to spot a significant-looking old stone hiding under foliage.’ (p28) They also advise the reader to look at old tithe maps that were drawn up in the time of the Enclosure Acts, as they may include tracks that are no longer there.

In the section on dowsing, they include A Dowser’s Story- Peter Taylor which is written by Peter himself. There are plenty of these first-hand accounts littered throughout the book, providing different perspectives and valuable insights. There is one from Christina Oakley Harrington, the founder of Treadwell’s bookshop in London, there is even one by Professor Ronald Hutton, which I found fascinating. However, here we get to my only pet peeve of this book. These sections are written in a light grey text, which makes it rather difficult to read unless in very good lighting. I found this to be quite a strain on my eyes trying to read in my little dimly lit cottage. However, if you just make sure that you have a decent lamp, or read in broad daylight, you will be fine. It is certainly not a deal-breaker, but it is a shame.

In the section Traps for the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, they admit that there is no evidence to categorically support dowsing, saying ‘The most sensible approach to ley lines and to dowsing seems to lie in being open-minded and unattached to any particular theory.’ (p38) showing that the main goal is to be curious when approaching magic.

My favourite section of this book is the Things to Do sections at the end of each chapter. I like that the book encourages you to actually get up and do things, almost making it part manual, bringing older practises right into the modern world.

I am also impressed with how the Resources section is laid out, as it is split into The Ancient Landscape, Ley Hunting and Dowsing (p45-6) which allows you to very easily find more resources for the specific topic you are interested in. Every Resources section at the end of each chapter is split into appropriate themes, which adds to the books usability and shows that the reader is being considered all the way through.

Overall, I think that this book is a must have for anyone with an interest in English magical history, in either an academic capacity or a spiritual one. It is very detailed, but written in an accessible way, and is split into sections to make it easily digestible. I think that this is a seminal work, and I am so very happy that I now have my own copy that I can scribble in!

If you would like to see a more detailed review, and an overview of the rest of the chapters in this book, watch my YouTube video here:

Wise Woman/ Mad Woman Poetry Collection

photo from my Instagram @rgwoodwitch

In case you don’t know, I am currently embarking on my biggest writing project thus far: my debut poetry pamphlet, which will be completed in September of 2020. It is a series of 22 poems following the Major Arcana of the Tarot.

I have read tarot for six years, both for myself, friends and as a small business and what I love about it most is how there is a card for every single emotion or situation that we deal with as humans. They perfectly reflect the human condition, something that I aim to do within my poetry, which is why it seemed to make absolute sense to use this as a framework for my collection.

Within my poetry, I am exploring what it means to be a woman, and particularly being a 21st Century witch. So many women are turning to the craft, and more people are practising magic than ever before. I love the idea of reclaiming something that was used as a tool to harm women, an insult to those of us who are seen as mean, ugly or otherwise ‘bad.’ I also like the idea of this reclamation of female power, of female knowledge and inheritance passed, purposefully or not, through the generations.

My poetry centres around my own life experiences, mixed with a healthy dose of magic, folklore and history (plus a side of gore). So if that sounds like something you would be interested in, follow this blog or my Instagram @rgwoodwitch, for updates.

All my love,

R G Wood

I would like to give a disclaimer that witchcraft and the label ‘Witch’ are not exclusive to women, but ‘women and the occult’ is my area of focus for this collection.

Beginner Witch? Read This!

The Daughter of Swords in the Wild Unknown deck is the equivalent of the Page of Swords in a traditional deck. The page symbolises entering a state of higher learning and the suit of swords, linked to air, symbolised thoughts, knowledge, your own beliefs and truth. A perfect card to symbolise embarking upon your witchcraft journey.

This article is primarily for people just beginning to get interested in the craft. It can be quite scary and overwhelming if you don’t know where to begin, when you are being pulled towards something as big as witchcraft. Hopefully I am able to shed some light and make this a time of enlightenment and discovery.My first piece of advice is to research. The most common method is, of course, to read books. There are lots out there, of varying levels of difficulty. Try to read books that aren’t just someone giving their opinion as fact. I truly believe that you should do what feels right for you, no one can tell you what is going to work and what isn’t. Of course, there are some essentials that need to happen for spells to work, such as concentration and visualisation, but all of these things come from within you. Look for general books that give advice and read a range. Don’t just read books on Wicca if you don’t know that that is your path, don’t read something as specific as tree magic and assume you know all there is to know about magic as a whole. There is a lot of difference within paths, so don’t read one specific point of view and take it as gospel, read a range so you can work out what options there are and find something that works for and resonates with you.

If you find books too intimidating, there is always the internet. So many people are talking about witchcraft and different belief systems, there are short videos on so many different topics which are perfect to help you get a feel fora specific belief system or practice, which will save you a lot of time and give you a broad rang of information. From there, you can pick and choose what resonates with you and what you would like to pursue further.

Put little things into practice to see how you feel when you’re doing it. You do not need to pick a specific path, feel free to pick and choose, change what you identify as, incorporate bits from another path into your own, or be completely eclectic and just do you. Don’t worry about doing a fully fledged ritual at this stage if it intimidates you, you could simply go for a walk, collect a fallen branch or a pebble, and have it as the start of your altar. You don’t have to go crazy, be creative as you like. Don’t stress yourself out about it because witchcraft is meant to be enriching, not stressful.

Don’t be too rigid when you are starting out. If you are doing spell work, feel free to substitute things like incenses and oils for whatever you have. Don’t spend loads of money if you don’t know if this is the right path for you, you can do any spell with what you have in your house right now. If you want to create an altar, instead of buying expensive statues, you could paint pictures to go around your altar space. Creating art is such a good way of connecting with deities and other correspondences, and if you have the tools already, it is cheap! Get DIY about it rather than spending money especially when you are starting out, and have fun!

See if there are any local pagan groups in your area, meeting with other people is great for getting an understanding of different belief systems and feeling less alone. If there just aren’t any, try online! Join Facebook groups like the very active Hedgewitchery where you can ask questions, discuss matters and actually talk to other witches online.

Listen to your heart. Lots of people say this or that is the right way, but it is all personal opinion. If something feels right, just do it. The worst thing that is going to happen is that your spell won’t work, read my post on successful spellcasting for tips on how to avoid this.

My final piece of advice is just do it, especially if you have been sitting on this a long time without taking the plunge, just do it. it can be something small, light a candle and write something that you want to banish from your life on a piece of paper and burn it while visualising.

I hope that you enjoyed this post and found it useful, watch the corresponding YouTube Video here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41hBLYqBS_4

R G Wood XO

Tips For Successful Spell-casting

The first thing that you will want to do when preparing to cast a spell is to ground yourself. Get yourself comfy at your altar space, sit there quietly for a few minutes and do some visualisation. Imagine light within you, from your head/heart/ pelvis stretching through you, through the floor and connecting to the world like roots, bringing yourself literally down to earth, becoming one with the universe.

Then you will want to meditate for a while, you don’t want to carry baggage from the day into the ritual, you want to get into that space between worlds and relax, get into the zone, feel the vibes. Meditate until you feel ready, it might take a couple of minutes or a good half an hour. This is an important step to get you into the mindset for spellcraft, you need to be able to focus all your energy on the spell.

You might like to cast a circle. To do this, you can use a wand, wood or crystal, an athame, or you can just use your finger. Point in a circle around your ritual space and imagine a protective light coming from your finger/ tool in a full circle encompassing the ritual space. This protects you from unwanted energies to take worry out of your mind, you don’t worry something is going to come and get you, you are creating a safe space for the ritual to take place. You might like to say a few words and invite in certain things like the elements, your ancestors, the mother, deities, spirit guides, animal archetypes, angels, even fictional deities if they will aid your work. This will depend on what spell you want to do, and is very personal. Ask them to be present and aid your spiritual work. Remember to release the circle afterwards by going the opposite way around the circle and imagine the light reentering, and thank whoever was there.

Another tip is to think about correspondences. if you are doing a spell from a book they will have probably told you what correspondences to use. However, don’t be too rigid, you don’t need every single specific correspondence that they list, I truly believe that you have everything in your house necessary to do any spell, correspondences are to help you, their energies aid you but they are also a tool to get you into the right mindset, so if you are told that you need 5 things and you only have two, that is fine. You can also swap things out. For example, if you need cedarwood because it is an earthy scent but you only have another earthy scent, and you feel that it will work in the spell, use that. Don’t spend a fortune on unnecessary things.

So, correspondences include: scents, incenses oils crystals, candles, colours, time of day, time of year moon phase etc. This is personal, so have fun and experiment, there is no rule book despite what people say.

I write my own spells. If you are using a pre-written spell, make sure that it resonates with you. When you write yourself you put much more thought into each word, I could read an entire page and not take a word of it in, but if I write a paragraph I know what it says, you have to pay attention.

As you’re performing the spell you will want to visualise the outcome, this is a massive part of the magic. Do this for as long as possible, until you feel like you have come to a natural end, seen everything that you want to have seen, you’ve done enough. See everything that you want from the spell, and really feel it. Read the spell as many times as you like. When you visualise, don’t just think ‘it would be nice if I had more money,’ think about how you will get it, how it will make you feel and feel it as if it is happening, and ask the universe to make it so.

Sit quietly after you have performed your spell then thank everyone for witnessing it. Open your eyes if they were closed during visualisation, snuff out the candles, release the circle and enter back into the mundane realm. It may be useful to you to have specific steps in a specific order that you follow every time. Food is a very grounding thing and is good to bring you back from the mystical realm back to the real world, so have something to eat and drink for when you want to come back around.

Something often neglected is spell aftercare. Some spells are ongoing so obviously they will have to be continually redone or topped up in some way. However, if you have asked for money you cant just ask and sit back and expect it to happen, you need to put in the work and meet the universe half way. Don’t be a spoiled child, you need to deserve it. Put the effort in, ultimately it comes from you. Look for new jobs and because you have done the spell you may get an interview, or you wont but you will get one the next week, but give the universe a helping hand.

My final tip is to write things down! We often think that we will remember when a spell works or makes us feel great, or that thing we did that resonated with us, but in reality, we are human, and we forget. Writing things down is a great way of keeping track and is wonderful to look back on and see how far you have come.

I hope that you found this helpful, stay wild, and I will speak to you in my next post XO

Visit the youtube video here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQ6IwTN7RvM

-R G Wood

5 Signs that YOU could be a Witch

ThumbnailI want to be clear before I delve into this post that I don’t believe that you are either born a witch or you are not. I do believe that some people are more inclined to follow a witchy or pagan path, but I honestly believe that everyone has the power within them to be a witch, should they want to be. This post is designed to show if witchcraft would be something that would enrich your life. That being said, let’s get into it.

  1. You love nature. Witches are heavily associated with nature, and for good reason. most witches see nature as somewhat divine and worship or work with it in some way. Therefore, if you see trees, flowers, the ocean or feel a breeze you have a deeper sense of connection, like there is something more there. Perhaps when you spend too much time away from nature your quality of life changes. I get depressed when I am away from nature so when i was trying to find my house, the number one priority was views of trees. The weather may also change your moods, you may feel happy in the sun, you might feel heightened energy and excitement in a thunderstorm. You might also feel the turning of the year, maybe in the spring you focus on new projects and goals, and you tend to bed down in winter. These are all signs that you could be a witch.
  2. You have a deep connection with your senses. If you smell cedarwood you imagine yourself in the middle of a beautiful forest, sounds bring back vivid memories and  you have a deep connection to people’s feelings and great empathy. If you have a very high sensory perception, you could be a witch.
  3. You feel a deep sense of connection to the world as a whole. This includes animals, humans and the further universe. You feel that you are connected to everyone and everything spanning the entire ends of creation. You feel that you can manipulate those things, when you look at the night sky you connect to the sun moon and stars, and know that we are all part of something bigger. 
  4. You have a deep belief in yourself. You don’t have to be really outgoing and self confident but you do have to have an intrinsic belief in yourself. You have to believe that you have the power to change things even if you haven’t harnessed it yet, it is easy to be self deprecating, it isn’t easy to stand up and say that you can do it. Take it from me, you do have the power, you just need to believe in it.
  5. You are drawn to witchcraft. You feel pulled towards it, you maybe love watching videos and films about it, you may just have a curiosity, and that is probably why you clicked on this blog post. This is the biggest giveaway that you should give it a go and that it will enrich your life. If you have the inherent need within your heart to pursue witchcraft you could have none of the other four points and still be a witch, so get on with it.

What to do now:

Do a bit of research, spend time in nature, take in the senses, whisper to the universe, just do something. It doesn’t have to be a big showy ritual, don’t be overwhelmed, just start on your witchcraft journey and let yourself have fun!

R G Wood